UCSD links herbicide to liver disease

UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that exposure to glyphosate — the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed-killer — correlates to more severe cases of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the study examined glyphosate excretion in the urine samples of two patient groups — those with a diagnosis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and those without. The results were significant: Regardless of age, race, body mass index, ethnicity or diabetes status, glyphosate residue was significantly higher in patients with NASH than it was in patients with a healthier liver.

“The increasing levels (of glyphosate) in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup-treated crops into our diet,” said Paul Mills, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD School of Medicine.

The findings, coupled with prior animal studies, said Mills, suggest a link between the use of commercial glyphosate in our food supply, which has increased significantly over the past 25 years, and the prevalence of NAFLD in the U.S., which too has been on the rise for two decades.

Next up for Mills is putting a group of patients on an all-organic diet and examining how an herbicide-free diet might affect biomarkers of liver disease.

New La Jolla networking group

Business Network International (BNI) — a franchised networking organization with about 233,000 members in 8,399 local chapters worldwide — has launched its second La Jolla chapter, BNI Ranch & Coast, led by Joy Bender, a real-estate agent with Compass.

“Our group is sincerely committed to helping one another, using each other’s services, and providing dynamic testimonials,” Bender said. “It’s taken us six months to get the group launched and our group should have $30,000 in closed business by the end of our first month.”

BNI Ranch & Coast meets 7 a.m. Tuesdays at The LOT, 7611 Fay Ave. Breakfast is $30. (760) 212-2717.

The other La Jolla BNI chapter, BNI of La Jolla, meets 6:45 a.m. Tuesdays at Congregational Church of La Jolla, 1216 Cave St.

UCSD pinpoints brain’s judgment center

Neurobiologists at the UC San Diego have located the brain area responsible for value decisions made based on past experiences.

According to their research — published in the latest issue of the journal Cell — data from tens of thousands of neurons revealed an area of the brain called the retrosplenial cortex (RSC), which was not previously known for value-based decision-making, a fundamental animal behavior that is impaired in neurological conditions ranging from schizophrenia to dementia and addiction. Its decisions include where we buy our morning coffee.

“When you have two coffee shops to choose from, no one is telling you which one to go to — you rely on the internal value in order to choose one over the other,” said senior author Takaki Komiyama, a neurosciences professor in UCSD’s Division of Biological Sciences and School of Medicine. “How the brain maintains this value information — and how it might be different in healthy and disease states — could be relevant in clinical applications.”

La Jollan earns honorary Ph.D.

La Jolla resident Mary Fair Berglund has been awarded an honorary doctorate of human letters by Oregon’s Pacific University, from which she graduated in 1958.

Berglund — executive vice president of a private asset and portolio management company since 1984 — is a trustee and treasurer of both the Charles Lee Powell Foundation and the ResMed Foundation, as well as chair of the Powell Foundation’s Investment Committee, which has funded more than $105 million in grants for engineering research at Stanford, Caltech, USC and UC San Diego.

Contributions from Berglund and her husband, Jim, have resulted in the addition of Berglund Hall to Pacific University’s Forest Grove Campus in 2007, the founding of the College of Business in 2013, and the Berglund Center, an on-campus incubator for students to develop and launch products and services ideas.

UCSD study has eye on macular regeneration

Using stem cells from six people, UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers recapitulated retinal cells in the lab. This “eye-in-a-dish” model allowed them to look for genetic variants that might contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over age 65.

Published in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cell Reports, the study revealed the importance of a specific variation in the VEGFA protein that affects expression of the VEGFA gene and is known for supporting new blood-vessel growth — a process that goes awry in AMD.

“We didn’t start with the VEGFA gene when we went looking for genetic causes of AMD,” said senior author Kelly Frazer, professor of pediatrics and director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine. “But we were surprised to find that, with samples from just six people, this genetic variation clearly emerged as a causal factor.”

AMD involves the slow breakdown of cells that make up the macula, which is part of the retina, a region in the back of the eye that sends information to the brain.

— News Nuggets compiled by Corey Levitan from local reports

Lane closures, night work to finish slope restoration

With Memorial Day and the start of the summer construction moratorium just a few days away on May 27, the Torrey Pines Road Slope Restoration Project is in its final stages.

Although San Diego public information officers could not confirm that the project would be complete by the Memorial Day holiday, City Council member Barbara Bry’s field rep Mauricio Medina told the La Jolla Community Planning Association during its May 2 meeting: “The latest information I have is that they are aiming to finish by the end of this month” and that “we are trying to get the Public Works Department to wrap this up.” Should the project not be complete, work would suspend until the end of the summer construction moratorium (Labor Day, Sept. 2).

The work thus far has meant closures in the eastbound lanes of Torrey Pines Road, and some battles about whether to do some of the work at night. Through May 24, night work is scheduled 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday-Thursday.

The project, located on the south side of Torrey Pines Road between Roseland Drive and Little Street, is a continuation of the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project Phase II, which started last year, and will reconstruct a 350-foot section of earthen slope.

Ashley Mackin-Solomon



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